A report issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), UN World Health Organisation(WHO) and other UN bodies revealed that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic threatens the progress that has been made over the past 30 years in the field of health services, which has become a major role in saving the lives of millions of children and newborns from preventable complications and diseases.
The number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019 down to 5.2 million, from 12.5 million in 1990. However, there are fears the numbers could rise on back of Covid-induced disruptions to child and maternal health services, new estimates released on Wednesday indicated.
WHO confirms that health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives. For example, women who receive care by medical professionals according to international standards are 16 percent less likely to lose their babies, and 24 percent less likely to have premature labour.
Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore called for urgent investments to restart disrupted health systems and services. "The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the Covid-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks," she said. "When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of Covid-19," she added.
More than half of child deaths in 2019 were in sub-Saharan Africa, while the death rate among children in Central and South Asia was 28 percent. Afghanistan, Bolivia, Libya, Sudan and Pakistan are among the countries most affected by the impact of health services.